Unwired -- 3G Pocket Rockets

Back to Contents of Issue: June 2000

Everyone keeps talking about third-generation cell phones, but what exactly does 3G mean? Speaking at Tokyo's 3G Mobile conference in April, Tomihisa Kamada, executive vice president and CTO of Access (see page 10), gave a concise rundown of the hardware and software features to be expected in 3G terminals. These devices will be provided in the guise of cell phones, email readers, shirt-pocket-sized cards, and tiny video conferencing terminals -- and they make first-generation analog cell phones look clunkier than 8-tracks. According to Kamada, in Japan, some time early in 2001 (two years before the US), users will get a 3G phone that has:

  • a high-performance CPU
  • an LCD with 4,096 colors
  • a multimedia software engine for MPEG-4 playback
  • full compatibility with the Bluetooth standard for device-to-device wireless
    communication (replacing the current infrared port on devices like laptops
    and Palm Pilots; for more on Bluetooth)
  • a USB (universal serial bus) port for local cable connection to printers, PCs, digital cameras, and other USB-capable devices
  • MIDI sound (what the sound card in your desktop provides now)
  • GPS (Global Positioning System)
  • a SIM card, enabling you to transfer your address book and other personal data from device to device (already standard on European GSM phones)
  • expanded memory (think of the Memory Stick from Sony), and
  • a Java virtual machine accelerator that functions like the graphics accelerator card in your PC, but also allows for the downloading of Java applets

On the software side, 3G mobile devices will seem an awful lot like the PCs of just
a few years ago, and will include:

  • an HTML/XML/HDML-compatible microbrowser
  • a multimedia email client
  • TCP/IP for wireless
  • security software -- likely Secure Sockets Layer, the current Web standard
    for e-commerce
  • streaming video and audio, and
  • the ability to download software

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